Tengo Hambre: Global View Goes Out to Eat — April

Tengo Hambre: Global View Goes Out to Eat — April

Hello. I don’t remember what round of Global View Goes Out to Eat this is, and I don’t care. Let me tell you why: Senioritis.

I can’t make myself go to class. I haven’t done a reading in I don’t remember how long. This is the longest sentence I’ve written in a month. My friend just texted me telling me we’re going to Rick’s tomorrow night. Today is Monday.

El Oasis, on Michigan Avenue in Lansing.

So, in the true spirit of my disease (I think senioritis has been certified as such by the CDC at this point), for this month’s column I declined to actually go to a restaurant where I have to sit down, wait for food, and in general behave like a normal, civilized human being, and instead went to a food truck. But it’s a food truck that doesn’t really move, so is it even really a food truck? That is too existential of a question for my level of brain function right now.

You have probably realized that I am speaking of El Oasis, the Mexican food truck (?) located on Michigan Avenue as you head west towards the Capitol, kind of across the street from Theio’s (the place that I don’t understand why everybody loves; its takes forever to get in at breakfast which is the only time you want to go, service is super slow, and the food kind of sucks). It is in a parking lot and there is nowhere to sit down and eat there. For where I’m at in my life right now, this is ideal. For you, it may not be. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

The menu is pretty standard Mexican fare – tacos, burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas and so on. However, don’t expect Taco

Part of the (very well-priced) menu; pretty standard Mexican fare except for the beef tongue and tripe tacos.

Bell. This stuff is legit (or at least it seems legit to me, but I am not exactly a connoisseur). The food is all homemade (truckmade?) and there was a woman wearing a pink polo shirt that said “La Jefa” (The Boss) on it giving orders in the background, so all in all, the scene is pretty awesome. There was also a token hipster in line, a given with any food truck experience.

So my friend and I grabbed our food and ran back to the safety of our apartment to take pictures of it without the hipster judging us for being so lame. I had “Gregorio’s Special” (who is Gregorio?), which consisted of a beef taco and rice and beans, and I got some pico de gallo on the side because I had chips at home and I am obsessed with pico.

The taco consisted of a soft tortilla (the good kind, not the kind from the $1.50 pack you get from Meijer), ground beef, lettuce, tomato and cheese. It was definitely really great – flavorful and clearly fresh – but I had severely underestimated the size. I’m used to Americanized Mexican places where the servings are for, like, that kid in Matilda who ate the whole chocolate cake. This was for a normal person, even a not-super-hungry normal person. All of my illusions about Mexican portion size have been shattered. The rice and beans saved the meal, being kind of spicy and delicious, and most importantly, filling. I got the hot sauce on the side, but it wasn’t that great. It was a strangely electric orange color and weirdly bitter, although, it was indeed, very hot.

The pico de gallo, on the other hand, was really good – it was pretty standard tomato, white onion, cilantro (all uncooked) mixed together with some lime juice. The ingredients were definitely very fresh, probably the only really important thing about pico de gallo, but in my opinion the amount of lime juice was excessive. But what do I know? I’m just a white girl from the suburbs.

Beef taco, rice and beans. Tasted a million time better than it looks, I swear.

My friend got a small burrito (like me, she was expecting Chipotle-like sizes and so opted for a more human-like portion) and also ended up wishing she had ordered more. That being said, it was a good option for a vegetarian – it contained beans, rice, sour cream, avocado, lettuce, pico de gallo and cheese. She also got the mild sauce, which was definitely the better choice of the two sauces. It was kind of a green chili sauce with a bunch of cilantro, which is personally one of my favorite herbs.

What? You don’t have a list of favorite herbs?

Also in the plus column was price. The burrito was $3.50 and my taco plus rice and beans plus pico de gallo came out to $4.25. However, you might spend a little more if you are actually getting enough to create a whole meal – we had to supplement with the little food we have left in our cupboards (we have too much senioritis to go the grocery store).

All in all, it was a successful outing. We ate good Mexican food. We didn’t have to hide the fact that we ate it all in five minutes, since we were in the privacy of our own apartment. And most importantly, we avoided the dreaded scorn of the hipster.

Here are my conclusions:

–       Order more than you would at a more Americanized Mexican place; portions aren’t huge

–       If you own a fixie, you should ride it to El Oasis. You would fit in there.

–       Go for the mild, not the hot sauce

–       You should try either the beef tongue or tripe tacos, because they’re on the menu and I wanted to but was too scared/hungry

–       It is hard to accomplish things in April of your senior year

THANK YOU AND GOOD NIGHT!

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Tengo Hambre: Global View Goes Out to Eat — March

Tengo Hambre: Global View Goes Out to Eat — March

Welcome to the March edition of Global View Goes Out to Eat!

In this episode: I eat goat! We meet a real Jamaican, who for some inexplicable reason has chosen to live in Lansing, Michigan! I finally find out where Club Excel is!

Hey, guys. So in honor of Spring Break (which I am leaving for in a matter of hours, so sorry if this is rushed but honestly I value the beach more than I do this column), I have chosen to check out an authentic Jamaican restaurant this month.

Palace of Jamaica

Yes, there is a Jamaican restaurant in the East Lansing area. I’m surprised you’ve missed it as it’s appropriately named Palace of Jamaica and its exterior is emblazoned with green, yellow and black, the iconic colors of the Jamaican flag (you’ve seen Cool Runnings, haven’t you?). Oh wait, I know why you haven’t seen this place – it’s in downtown Lansing. And here, I repeat a slightly abbreviated version of my Lansing manifesto.

Students don’t go to downtown Lansing. You should go to downtown Lansing. Why? It’ a very short drive away. Parking is free after 6 p.m. Everything there is way less crowded by students. It’s fun and cool and you find interesting things there like hole-in-the-wall Jamaican restaurants.

And this place really is the definition of hole-in-the-wall, so although it was very good, if that’s not your thing, this might not be the place to you. It’s a tiny, two-table place between on the corner of Washington Square and Kalamazoo, next to a liquor store. It’s actually just down the street from Thai Village, which I reviewed in my first edition of this column. So far I can definitively say, Washington Square = good food.

Sidenote: If you take Michigan Avenue straight west from East Lansing then turn left on Washington Square, you pass Club Excel on your way there. I know! I always thought Club Excel was an urban legend! And that if I ever went to one of those parties there that everyone is always getting Facebook invites for, I’d probably get killed Craigslist-killer-style because it didn’t really exist! It actually looked pretty nice.

Anyways. The inside of Palace of Jamaica is pretty cool. Again, it’s tiny (I get the feeling they mostly do takeout business), but very interesting. The walls, like the exterior, are painted green, yellow and black and appropriately decorated with Bob Marley pictures, among other things. This place takes the stereotype to the fullest (at least aesthetically) and I’m into it. Also, the owner/chef was sitting right behind the counter watching YouTube videos – no headphones – the whole time we were there, which added a certain something to the atmosphere (Justin Bieber’s “Baby”, anyone?)

Inside Palace of Jamaica

But let’s get down to the important stuff – the food. There are no menus at Palace of Jamaica (well there’s actually a list of things taped to the counter, but I didn’t see that until we paid, so I’m sticking with no menus). When we walked in and sat down, the owner/chef just told us a few options and we picked from those.

There were no vegetarian options, though, so when my friend told him she was a vegetarian, he just gave her kind of a squinting look. But, he later delivered what she reported to be an amazing vegetarian meal (even though she had absolutely no idea what was coming). It was essentially rice and beans with a bunch of veggies and some sauce. From my point of view, there seemed to be pretty much every vegetable in existence thrown in there: bell pepper, corn, broccoli, onion, carrot, cabbage, peas, asparagus, zucchini and green beans were immediately identifiable. The sauce was kind of a mix of spicy and sweet, but not sweet like I generally expect Jamaican food to be (like with cinnamon and cloves). I can’t really think of how else to describe it so clearly I’m a terrible imitation of a food writer and you should stop reading right now. But please don’t, actually.

The vegetarian option

My second friend got the jerk chicken, and I got the curry goat (basically because it was the most interesting option offered). Both entrees came with rice and beans, steamed cabbage and fried plantains. The jerk chicken had a similar spice to the vegetarian dish, a mix of spicy and sweet, but definitely not the jerk chicken they make in the cafeteria, that stuff that has like little pieces of mango on top. The curry goat was a totally different flavor. I’ve never had goat before, but it was kind of like a cross between lamb and beef but with a more game-y flavor, if that makes sense. The curry sauce reminded me a lot of Indian-style curries, but not as spicy. This dish isn’t for the faint of heart – there are pretty big bones scattered throughout, but it was definitely something cool to try.

The rice and beans were a standard version of this dish, but done very well. One of my friends said it was her favorite thing about the meal. Personally, I really like the steamed cabbage, which is weird because I never really thought I liked cabbage that much. But this was actually very similar to the cabbage I had at the Ethiopian place, Altu’s: it was buttery and mild, without the strong flavor you might associate with cabbage. The final side, fried plantains, was the most universally liked item. “My new favorite thing,” one friend said. “Kind of like a sweet potato chip.” That is actually a really good description, because although I was expecting the equivalent of fried bananas, the plantains were really very starchy with just a hint of sweetness. Plus a crispy outside =

Jerk chicken, rice and beans, steamed cabbage and a fried plantain

heaven.

We also got ginger beers with our meal. Ginger beer is basically ginger-flavored pop (it’s non-alcoholic) but it’s kind of spicy in a very non-American-style-pop kind of way. It was also super sweet, which was kind of too much on its own, but went really well with the spicy food. If you like ginger, I would highly recommend giving this a try.

My conclusions about this place:

–       You should probably go here, if only to observe a Rastafarian listen to Justin Bieber on YouTube

–       Try something interesting off the menu, just because this is an interesting place

–       You might want to try takeout if you’re uncomfortable being the only person in there/in close quarters with the chef

–       Fried plantains are bomb

–       SPRING BREAK ’12!!!!!!!

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Tengo Hambre: Global View Goes Out to Eat — February

Tengo Hambre: Global View Goes Out to Eat — February

And, welcome to Round Three of Tengo Hambre! Has anyone seen that new show on MTV, Caged? I need some of those ring girls from ultimate fighting to walk around me (as I sit on my couch with my laptop writing this) holding up those numbers and grinning inanely. If my writing career doesn’t work out, maybe I could become one of them – it doesn’t look like it takes too many IQ points.

Anyways, thanks for coming back, is what I’m trying to say.

The somewhat sketchy outside view of Altu's. Don't let it discourage you.

This month I decided to check out an Ethiopian place, Altu’s, that’s just off campus, west down Michigan Avenue. Ethiopian is really popular in D.C., and I tried it for the first time when I was there. I loved it, so this month I turned to my trusty Yelp! to try and find somewhere to get it in the East Lansing area. Only two options came up – Altu’s, and weirdly, a place in Ann Arbor (which had 3.5 starts to Altu’s 4, just another way East Lansing owns Ann Arbor), which means there can’t be too many Ethiopian restaurants around if the second closest place is an hour away.

On one hand, I’m glad I can help introduce people to a new kind of cuisine, and one the other WTF Michigan?? Ethiopian is super popular in the bigger cities, and I like to think of Michigan, and especially the college areas, as pretty cultured and diverse. Let’s step it up guys. There’s more than Tex-Mex out there.

Ethiopian food involves a lot of stew-like dishes, usually spicy (but you can almost always order them mild if you prefer), that are served with a spongy, sourdough-ish bread called injera. The injera is used to scoop up the meat and veggies, as Ethiopian food is intended to be eaten with your hands instead of silverware.

Don’t be lame and let this scare you away. Eating with your hands is fun, trendy (see a recent story in the New York Times: http://nyti.ms/xoMADN) and a cool way to try out an element of a traditional culture that you might not be that familiar with. Take a date there, and it will give you something interesting to talk about, or teasingly mock him/her about if they suck at it. Hopefully they won’t since it’s pretty easy, but who knows, maybe your date is motor-skill deficient. And if you’re really set against the eating-with-your-hands thing, you can always ask for silverware – the restaurant is bound to have some for super American Americans like you.

Back to Altu’s. I wasn’t expecting it to measure up to the Ethiopian I’d had in D.C., being nowhere near as popular in Michigan, but it totally did. You guys, it was so good. Which actually makes more sense now that I’ve done a little more research on the place. The owner, Altu Tadesse, was born and raised in Ethiopia, and opened the restaurant when her husband accepted a job at Michigan State. She doesn’t just own the place, she’s in charge of the cooking too, so you can be sure your food will be authentic.

If you want to check out your options before heading over, the menu (with prices – dinner ranges from about $8 to $12, slightly more if you get a bigger plate to share) is available on the restaurant’s website, eatataltus.com. I got a combo with spicy chicken stew and garlic lentils and OMG LOL as my dad would say (he doesn’t understand popular acronyms). First off, all the meals come with salad, cabbage and of course injera bread, in addition to the main dishes. If you like, you can have rice instead of the bread, or do half-rice, half-bread (which I did just so I could report back to you guys on the best choice).

The salad, although it was just a small amount, a basically just lettuce and tomato with a vinagrette dressing, was super fresh and very good. I wished I had had twice as much. As for the cabbage, usually I’m not fan, but I actually like what was served with my meal. It was buttery and flavorful, but not super cabbage-y if that makes sense. Still, it wasn’t my favorite part of the meal. My friend who came with me loved it though, and in her words, “I’m not a cabbage girl.” Put that on a bumper sticker.

On to the main dishes. My chicken was delicious – pretty much exactly what I had expected from my prior experiences

Salt and...berbere?

with Ethiopian food. It was tender and spicy (but not like Tabasco spicy, more like a slow-growing, lasts-for-an-hour-after-the-meal kind of spicy) and went really well with the slightly sour injera bread. There’s a spice mixture used in a lot of Ethiopian cooking called berbere that was used on the chicken and you’ll probably run into if you try Ethiopian food anywhere – it’s a combination of chili powder, garlic, pepper, dried basil and other, less-known spices like rue, korarima and fenugreek. It’s so ubiquitous, that instead of salt and pepper shakers on the table, there was one shaker filled with salt, and one filled with berbere.

My lentils were good, but not as flavorful as the chicken. I expected a strong garlic taste, but it was much more subtle, and almost hard to detect when combined with the injera, which has its own flavor. If you’re going for a vegetarian dish, I would suggest going with the half-rice, half-bread option. The blander rice allows you to taste the veggie dishes better, but the definitely try the bread – it’s traditional and interesting and like I said, fun to eat with.

Salad, cabbage, injera bread, spicy lentils, whole white peas and potatoes, spicy ground peas with greens and chickpea sauce.

My friend went for the vegetarian combo, which is a really nice option because you can choose any four of the veggie options, which gives you a chance to try a variety of things. She went with the spicy lentils, the whole white peas and potatoes, the spicy ground peas with greens and the chickpea sauce. She said the spice lentils and spicy ground peas with greens kind of ran together since they both were flavored with the berbere, and that her favorite was the white peas with potatoes which she said were slightly sweeter, with an almost squash-like texture and taste. The chickpea sauce, she said, was a little bland, but went the best with the injera. I tried all of her dishes (and ate the leftovers today) and my favorite was the spicy ground peas with greens, which were spicy and flavorful, with a little more texture than the white peas or chickpeas.

On Saturday nights at Altu’s they have live music, which was cool, but a little annoying when it got loud enough to make our conversation difficult. Also, we were slightly confused because the band was definitely bluegrass-y, when we would have expected something African or at least not so…American. But they were good, and obviously local, so it’s kind of cool that Altu’s is giving local musicians a place to play every week. But still. Weird.

 

My conclusions about this place:

–       OMG LOL it’s good

–       Great place for vegetarians, lots of the hearty and diverse choices

–       Eating with your hands is highly underrated

–       I love berbere

–       Ethiopian food + bluegrass music = odd, but overall not unpleasant

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Tengo Hambre: Global View Goes Out to Eat – December

Tengo Hambre: Global View Goes Out to Eat – December

New Aladdin's Restaurant, located in Frandor

Welcome back to Tengo Hambre. At least, I hope you’ve come back. I hope you didn’t read my first column and realize the truth (that I’m extremely underqualified to review restaurants) (that I should buy a thesaurus) (that I’m mostly motivated by hunger instead of journalistic integrity).

Either way, if you’re here, thanks. I appreciate it.

In Round 2 of this great experiment, I tried to make it a little easier for you guys, and I split the distance between East Lansing and Lansing to go hang out in that monstrosity of a strip mall called Frandor.

If you’ve ever been to Frandor, you know that it must have been designed by some civil engineer who either barely graduated community college or who was really smart but had an evil streak. It’s like a series of interconnected parking lots with no real way to get from one to another so you just kinda have to make it up. A successful trip to Frandor depends as much on your knowledge of sign language (to communicate with the other poor souls who find themselves there) as it does your driving ability.

But if you can get past the potential for a few minor traffic accidents, there’s some pretty good things in Frandor. Michaels – for supplies to decorate your beer pong table. A Coney Island – a good alternative for Saturday/Sunday hangover breakfast that not as many students go to. A slightly sketchy Kroger – for groceries when you just can’t take going to Meijer one more time. And of course, my destination: New Aladdin’s Restaurant, for Middle Eastern food.

When my friends and I set off for Aladdin’s, we had high hopes. It had earned 4.5 starts on Yelp! (with the all-important lone dollar sign under the price section) and great reviews about both the food and the service. And for me, it pretty much fulfilled those expectations. For my friends – some yes, some no.

We went on a Saturday night, and although it was far from full, there were enough people there to not make us nervous. We were the only students, which is pretty much standard, I’ve noticed, for places off Grand River.

The menu was pretty extensive, and pretty well priced. Pretty much anything you would want or expect from a Middle Eastern restaurant was available (with an optional side of fries – always a plus).

Three of us ordered entrees, (the ones we got were all around $8-$9, but the more expensive ones got up to about $15) and one ordered a sandwich (which was around $5). All of them came with a side (soup or salad) and the entrees included hummus and pita, which came out almost immediately after we ordered.

On the hummus front, we were divided. I thought it was pretty standard, good but nothing special, but others thought it was some of the best they’d had in a while and complimented it on being super fresh. There definitely was a lot of it, which was nice, because it lasted throughout my whole meal – which also arrived really quickly, by the way.

Clockwise from left: Fattoush salad, lentil soup, hummus, tabouli

We all ended up getting different sides (ideal for you readers out there just dying to know more about New Aladdin’s). I got the fattoush salad, with romaine, tomato, green pepper and toasted pita bits. It was hands down the best part of my meal. I could tell it was super fresh, and it had this light, lemony vinaigrette dressing that I wished I could have bought a gallon of because I would eat it on every salad for the rest of my life. Seriously.

My three friends got the tabouli salad (also super fresh, though a bit too onion-y for some of us, but perfect for others), a lentil soup (a little too lemon-y, my friend thought, but otherwise good) and one daring (aka hungover) soul went for the French fries. The one I tried was a little mushy, but I guess that’s what you get for ordering fries at a Middle Eastern place.

On to the main course. I had the yes, conservative, but ultimately good choice of chicken shwarma over rice. It was literally that – just chicken and rice – but it was really, really good. The rice was perfectly cooked, the chicken was well-spiced and delicious, and there was a lot of it. The leftovers are sitting in my fridge right now, calling to me, but I told myself I have to finish writing this before I eat them.

Chicken shwarma

My friends had varying experiences with their meals. One got the eggplant and falafel sandwich which she described as “dense” (whatever that means – I told her you guys need more varied descriptors than that but she wasn’t having it) but good. She added some turnip from another plate that she said broke it up well. The second got a vegetarian combo, which included grape leaves, falafel and mujadara (a rice, lentil, onion combination). This was not as much of a success. The falafel was deemed “nothing special – a little dry”, the mujadara “kind of flavorless” and finally – and I quote – the grape leaves were so lemony that eating them was “like sucking on a lemon-chamomile tea bag.” So. You might not want to order the grape leaves.

My last friend had kind of a terrible experience. I’m hesitant to write about it too much because I don’t think it’s typical of the restaurant but I don’t want to gloss over it, either. She ordered vegetarian cabbage rolls, which she thought tasted a little weird, but ate anyways. As we were paying, our waitress came over and apologized because – psych – the kitchen had messed up and given her the meat version. The waitress and the owner were super distraught and apologetic and rightfully didn’t make her pay, but my friend is a strict vegetarian, so it was a traumatic experience for her. I don’t think this should make you never go to Aladdin’s, because it’s the kind of mistake that I could see happening (a scribbled-down order or a too-quick glance at what was written could easily cause it), but still. Pretty big mistake.

My conclusions about this place:

–       Food was good, but order carefully – some things aren’t as great

–       They really like lemons

–       I want more fattoush salad

–       Frandor needs to install a full infrastructure of lanes, traffic lights and preferably some of those people who wave down planes at airports to direct confused drivers

–       Thank god I’m done writing this because now I can go eat my leftovers

 

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Tengo Hambre: Global View Goes Out to Eat — November

Tengo Hambre: Global View Goes Out to Eat — November

Welcome to Round 1 of what I like to call, “Using The Big Green as an Excuse to Try Out New Restaurants.” Working title.

But let me explain. I spent a little over six months living in Washington, D.C. during last spring and summer. D.C. is a great city, and one of the many things it’s known for is its ethnic food. With the help of Yelp!, I experienced some pretty great meals – everywhere from food trucks to kinda fancy (but still within my intern budget) sit-down places and every cuisine from the ubiquitous Thai to Vietnamese, Indian, Middle Eastern and Ethiopian. I miss it. I want to go back. But I can’t afford the plane ticket.

Solution? I’m going to seek out the best ethnic places in East Lansing and Lansing, take one for the team, and go try them out. Hopefully they’ll be places you haven’t ever been to or didn’t even know existed, and you might be inspired to try one out. If not you can just be jealous of me.

Round 1 led me to Thai Village in Lansing, located at 400 S. Washington Square right near the capitol building.

I think that Lansing is underrated. I don’t know if it’s the distance, the number of options for food, the entertainment here in East Lansing, or the fact that there are not many students wandering around downtown — which the rest of us take that as some sign that we’re not allowed — but most people I know never bother to take the five-minute drive downtown.

I talked to a friend to the other day who said he had literally never been to Lansing, and he’s been here for four years. It’s kind of a shame because there’s a ton of cool stuff down there. The capitol is awesome, and you can take tours for free. There’s cool events like Oktoberfest, which just went on last month. There are coffee shops and places to study where you don’t know anybody who’s going to distract you. Most importantly: there’s good food.

The Starters

Yelp! recommendation in hand, I headed downtown with three friends on a Friday evening. If you’re worried about parking in Lansing, don’t be. There were plenty of metered spots near the restaurant, and meters in Lansing are free after 6 p.m. Thai Village looked slightly sketch from the outside, but I find that most good Thai places do. Also, have you ever noticed how all Thai restaurants have to have “Thai” in the name? I know of a Thai Inn, Thai Fortune, Thai 102, Thai Kitchen, there’s that new No Thai! Place in EL. C’mon, guys. Creativity.

We were one of only a few tables of people in there that night – not as good of a sign. Maybe they do a big takeout business? Anyways, the menu was pretty big, and we all decided on something different after a short dispute about who got to order the pad pak as I had forbidden anyone to order the same thing for the benefit of this story. By the way, I won.

I also ordered a Thai iced tea, which if you’ve never had one before, you should stop reading right now and go find some because they’re really, really good. It’s kind of like milk tea you would get at a bubble tea place but sweeter and with a stronger flavor. Basically, it’s a cold drink that consists of strong, dark tea, condensed milk and sugar, sometimes with some spices like anise mixed it. Thai Village’s Thai iced tea was definitely worthy of anything I ever had in D.C., which is to say it was great. Also, at $2, it was just about the same price as ordering a Coke and way, way better, and its creaminess is a great match for spicy Thai food.

Next up, miso soup, which came free with all of our entrees, a really nice plus. Normally, I don’t order miso soup because I’m not a fan. It’s kinda gross and watery and has that weird…miso-y flavor. I know, but still. But I had free soup in front of me, and I’m poor. There’s no way I was turning that away. And surprisingly, I really liked this variation. It was a thicker broth than I’ve seen before, and the flavor was more spicy than miso-y, and it was actually pretty hearty with tofu and mushrooms.

The Entrees

I had the pad pak for my entree, which consisted of broccoli, pea pods, mushrooms, carrots, baby corn, napa and bamboo shoots in a brown sauce. I added chicken, but if you can’t tell, I ordered it basically because it had the widest variety of vegetables and I’m usually too lazy to make anything but the occasional salad or side of broccoli for myself at home.

Sidebar: We had a serious debate about baby corn while deciding what to order. I mean, baby corn is weird, right? It looks like a tiny corncob, but you can eat the whole thing which is unnatural. It tastes good, but still, how the hell did they engineer that?

Anyway. It was really good. I ordered it hot, and it was definitely spicy but not over the top. The mix of vegetables was great and the sauce had great flavor. I’m trying to come up with another adjective to describe it other than great, but I can’t. Sorry. I’m obviously no Ruth Reichl. Basically, I’m telling you it was good so you should just go try it.

Everybody else was pretty happy with their meals as well. One of my friends had the drunken noodles (“I get it everywhere and I wasn’t disappointed,” she said. “The veggies were cooked perfectly but it could have used some more basil”), another had bell peppers and Thai holy basil with shrimp (“Could have used a lot more basil and some more shrimp, but otherwise good”) and the last had the sinn pak delight with tofu (“Delightful,” she said. Just kidding. “The tofu was cooked perfectly and the mushrooms were really good” was what she actually said).

So I guess maybe they’re really good chefs but have a basil shortage? On the plus side, the portions were huge, definitely big enough to take half home for another meal, which is basically the best part of any restaurant meal as any college student knows.

Prices weren’t bad either. Most of the entrees are between $8 and $9 for dinner and between $6 and $7 for lunch, and come with a choice of chicken, pork, tofu, beef, shrimp, scallop or squid.

Conclusions

My conclusions about this place:

–       Food was great (I don’t own a thesaurus)

–       They have a mysterious lack of basil

–       I am now craving Thai iced tea

–       I wish I still had the other half of my entrée left but I ate it at 3 a.m. the same night

–       I should probably have more vegetables in my diet

So there you have it! You should eat probably eat here if you like Thai food.

Lemme know if you have any suggestions for more places I should check out.

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Top Ten #MSU Tweets

Top Ten #MSU Tweets

Photo credit: Kaleigh Robichaud

You and your friends tweet status updates. Your professors tweet homework assignments. Your mom tweets to tell you to get enough vitamins. Let’s face it: Twitter is here to stay, and State Side is celebrating that fact by bringing you ten of the best, most school-spirity, most right-on, most hilarious tweets with a #MSU tag each month. @TheBigGreen. Get at us.

10. mciranna Just took me 30 minutes to find a parking spot on #MSU campus!? What gives??

9. MIFarmersFeedUS Looking for a unique #holiday #gift? Consider holiday cheese from the #MSU #Dairy Club! http://bit.ly/b2rRYH #agchat #foodchat #Christmas

8. jaimejean478 This new Zeke needs to go back to frisbee training camp. #msu

7. ValentineIsME RT @IRW2say: @Janie624 Wonder how my roommie got into #MSU. #irw2say Wonder if his transcripts somehow got switched wth a smart person’s?

6. bouckkei I keep thinking to last Thursday where I had been to three bars and in bed by 9pm. #burgerama #msu #elansing

5. MrBroadwayy Forget a peacoat ! I’m gettin a north face!!!! This weather at #MSU is serious!!

4. TiffanyNicoleCo Presidential chicken :) #MSU

3. boyerca1 My bus driver is talking to himself and saluting everyone. I’m concerned for my  safety. Thank you #msu CATA…

2. TharealJHouse Taking all bets on a over\under on how many #MSU players get arrested during the bye wk @ricofonzarelli @black_ty @LifesNotAGame @Duane_M

1. PObox_Shannon mmm… I’m about to get a dub, and it’s going to be glorious. #MSU

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Diversity of Universities

Diversity of Universities

We all love MSU. We love the campus, we love our friends and classmates, we love the Red Cedar River, we even love the Wells Hall preacher and blizzards in March. But what would it be like if we were students somewhere else? What if we went to a school with only a fraction of the students we have here? What if we went to a school in the south, on the east coast or in the west? What if we went to a private or a religious school?

MSU has over 36,000 undergraduate students, it is located East Lansing, Mich. and it is public and secular.

Tulane University has about 5,500 undergraduate students, it is located in New Orleans, La. and it is private and secular.

Brigham Young University has about 30,000 undergrads, it is located in Provo, Utah, and it is private and religious, owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

What would it be like to go to one of these schools? And in comparison, what does it mean to be a Spartan?

Tulane University

Marisa Muniak is a 20-year-old junior at Tulane University who is studying cellular biology. She calls New Orleans “the greatest college town ever” and says she absolutely loves her school, but she isn’t from the city, or from Louisiana, or even from the South – in fact, she was born and raised in Michigan. She attended Boyne City High School, where she graduated in 2007. So why Tulane?

“I had visited New Orleans before and loved the city,” Muniak said. “I grew up in a small little boring city, so actually seeing a huge city with lots of life, it was amazing. And they also had the program I wanted…it was meant to be.”

Tulane is a private school with about 1,500 incoming freshman each year. With about 5,500 undergraduates total, the student to faculty ratio is eight to one, and the average class size is 22 students. There are about 75 majors available and on-campus students live in one of eight residence halls. Tuition along with mandatory fees, such as for the student health and recreation centers, comes to about $42,000 for an academic year.

In her third year now, Muniak lives off-campus after spending her two required years in the dorms. Unlike many students here at MSU who live in housing that is essentially exclusive to students, Muniak and her roommate live in an area where they are the only Tulane students, although their neighbors are Tulane professors. She added that the rest of the people living around them are non-student New Orleans residents.

“But we’re like a five, seven minute walk from campus,” Muniak said. “I’m sure if you were just like one or two blocks off campus there would be a lot more students.”

A five or seven minute walk? To a Tulane student, that might be a long way away, but to an MSU student, it’s probably shorter than a walk between buildings on campus. Five to seven minutes would get you from some of the closest East Lansing apartments to about the Union. So what’s it like going to such a small school?

“I can walk around campus and even though I may not know somebody’s name, or even what year they are or major or anything, it’s still a familiar face,” Muniak said. “And all the workers on campus, they’re all so sweet.”

Muniak said that attitude is part of the southern culture.

“What they say about southern hospitality, it totally exists,” she said. “It’s so different, we make jokes all the time on campus because a lot of us are from the Midwest or the East, we’re always joking about like, ‘Oh, in the North people don’t hold doors open for us.’”

Going to a college that was built in a pre-existing city instead of one that essentially created its own city like MSU has also had an effect on Muniak’s experience. She said she loves the fact that when she’s in New Orleans, not everybody is a student – in fact, most people aren’t. She frequents jazz clubs and other venues for local music, loves southern cooking (red beans and rice is her favorite dish) and has adjusted to a whole new way of life.

“We’re all on New Orleans time down here – things will happen when they happen, and it doesn’t, no worries,” Muniak said. “It’s definitely become something I love.”

She added that college culture is a lot different than at a big state school – freshman usually only go to one or two football games at Tulane before they give up on the team. “Anything [athletic] we do, we’re horrible,” Muniak said. But there are some things that are somewhat universal.

“There’s definitely plenty of partying,” she said. “There’s huge Greek life here. One side of campus – there’s plenty of houses along there and a lot people go to those.”

From nightlife to housing, Muniak’s experience gives an idea of what it’s like to live and study at a relatively small private school located in a big city.

“It’s been a lot of hard work as far as academics, but the environment that I’m in has really made it worth it,” Muniak said. “Knowing I’m going to have a hard exam on Friday but then Saturday I can go and listen to this world-renowned jazz musician – something to look forward to at the end of the road – has been great.”

Brigham Young University

Sabrina Smith is one of the very few African American students on her campus in Provo, Utah. In the fall of 2009, BYU had 29,587 undergraduates. Smith, an elementary music education sophomore and Florida native was one of only 165 African Americans – that’s about 0.5 percent. In comparison, about eight percent of MSU undergraduates in fall of 2009 were African American.

“Utah itself isn’t as diverse as where I’m from,” Smith said. “It’s primarily Caucasian people here…I wish that there was more diversity, but I think that every year it gets a little bit better.”

Smith may be a minority in racial terms, but in another way she is part of the most significant majority population on campus. Like 98.7 percent of students at BYU, Smith is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormon church.

BYU was founded by Brigham Young himself in 1875, when Young was the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. According to BYU’s website, Young told the principal of the school at the time, “Brother Maeser, I want you to remember that you ought not to teach even the alphabet or the multiplication tables without the Spirit of God.”

BYU takes that instruction to heart. Religion is incorporated into every aspect of student life, from academics to housing to behavioral guidelines. Fourteen religion credits are required to graduate, which Smith says means students are taking a religion class almost every semester. In addition, religion is a common theme throughout other classes as well.

“Every class is supposed to incorporate the gospel as far as the curriculum allows it to,” Smith said. “So in pretty much any class they can bring up a scripture and associate it with whatever we’re talking about, and in most syllabi you get there will be at least one quote from the scriptures.”

Smith was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (she calls herself LDS), so she said the environment at BYU wasn’t a big change for her. One of the 439 non-LDS students enrolled in the fall of 2009 might have found it hard to adjust to not being able to drink coffee, tea or alcohol or conforming to strict dress and grooming standards. All behavioral standards are explained in BYU’s Honor Code, which requires students to “seek to demonstrate in daily living on and off campus those moral virtues encompassed in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

This means no alcohol, no sex, no profanity, no beards for the men and no sleeveless shirts for the women, among other things.

“All lot of it has to do with dressing, grooming, which is like how you’re obviously dressing your body and also your hair,” Smith said. “Boys have to keep their hairstyle pretty short, it has to be above their ears and no one, girl or boy can have any kind of drastic hair color or style, and dress is supposed to be modest. On-campus and off-campus you’re not supposed to be using profanity, you’re not supposed to be watching anything that is in appropriate. Basically you’re just saying with the Honor Code that you’re going to uphold the gospel of the church.”

All off-campus housing must be approved by the university as meeting certain living standards and visiting hours are from 9 a.m. to 12 a.m.. No members of the opposite sex are allowed in bedrooms, and no members of the opposite sex are allowed to use bathroom facilities “unless emergency or civility dictates otherwise,” according to the Honor Code. All students must be in good Honor Code standing in order to receive a diploma.

The Honor Code may seem restricting to an outsider, but Smith said following it isn’t that different from simply following the rules of the LDS religion in daily life.

“It’s supposed to be what you’re living your life as anyways if you’re LDS,” Smith said. “And the people I know who aren’t LDS that go to BYU say that it isn’t really that big of an adjustment, because before they came to the school they knew what they were getting into.”

Even with strict behavioral guidelines, Smith said there is a lot that BYU students can do to have fun. Popular activities include going to the dollar theater, the bowling alley or attending one of the frequent university-organized activities.

“There is a lot of partying at BYU, but it’s different,” Smith said. “There isn’t any alcohol, but there isn’t any smoking, so in that respect it’s different. But there are a lot of dance parties and that kind of thing in Provo. There’s a lot of dancing.”

In addition, many male and female students actually do live together –  because they are married. Smith said it is very common for undergraduate students to marry at a young age, something she found very odd when she moved from Florida to Utah.

“Most students I know of get married by the time they graduate BYU, and that’s pretty standard,” Smith said. “There are lots of people in my classes who are engaged or married and I’m only a sophomore, so they’re about my same age, about 19 or 20.”

In spite of the cultural adjustment, Smith said she has enjoyed her time at BYU so far.

“I’m in the music program, so I really like the music aspect,” Smith said. “There are so many classes on music you can take, and they’re all very interesting. I also like that in any class you can have a gospel-centered discussion and that’s open. In some universities you can’t really bring up religion that much, and at BYU it’s very open.”

Michigan State University

We all know the basics about MSU. Over 47,000 students, non-religious, public. Great athletic programs, hundreds of possible majors and even more student organizations. The majority of us are from Michigan, so we grew up cheering on the Spartans in football and basketball, maybe even visiting friends or siblings on campus. We know what life is like here – what to expect from our classes, what clubs and organizations are most popular, what students tend to do on the weekends. But what does MSU look like to someone who didn’t grow up around this environment?

Rosie Williamson, a 20-year-old arts and humanities sophomore from New Jersey said she toured over 20 colleges, including Ohio State University, Indiana, Illinois and Pennsylvania State University before deciding on MSU. She chose MSU for several reasons, including the respected Spartan Marching Band in which she plays the trumpet, the location and the campus itself.

“It’s just one of the prettiest campuses I’ve ever visited,” Williamson said. “It’s so lush green, and the fact that we get all the seasons – I know everyone hates the snow, but I love the snow.”

The East Coast-native said that moving to the Midwest was definitely an adjustment.

“New Jersey and New York are very fast-paced and really loud and kind of have jagged edges everywhere, and the Midwest doesn’t,” Williamson said. “Even the major cities like Chicago, it’s got the charm of New York City, but it’s slower and nicer and cleaner.”

Gabe Santi, director of communications in the MSU Office of Admissions, and a graduate from the MSU School of Journalism, also emphasized the attitude of MSU students, faculty and staff as one of the best things about the university.

“One hundred and fifty years ago to go to college you had to be rich, you had to be white, you had to be male,” Santi said. “And Michigan State being the nation’s pioneer land-grant institution kind of changed that a little…Down-to-earth, hardworking, real, authentic, tangible – those are the words that come to mind when people talk about Michigan State and there’s a reason for that and it’s certainly because of the history of this place, but it’s also a testament to the current student body – people get that Spartan tradition. We use the word Spartan family a lot. It’s a large institution, but when you get right down to it, it’s a pretty close-knit place.”

Williamson agreed that in spite of MSU’s large size, the university has a small-town feel to it, which was another of the factors that attracted her to the university, in addition to the fact that MSU is a Big Ten school.

“I absolutely love the athletics at this school,” Williamson said. “I love the spirit that this school has for all the athletics, whether or not people attend. At least people are watching it and talking about it – I think that’s really great.”

Santi added that it is the Spartan spirit that tends to bond people together, whether it is current students, professors or alumni.

“Once you’re on campus and you interact this place a little, you start to bleed green,” Santi said. “It’s going to be with you for the rest of your life. You’re going to see people throughout the country, throughout the world and you’re going to have that instant bond…I think there is something a little indescribable that’s part of this place, that’s kind of just woven into the fabric of its founding.”

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MSU on FIRE list

MSU on FIRE list

MSU has a lot of positive distinctions. It’s ranked 30th among public universities on the America’s Best Colleges list issued by U.S. News & World Report in 2009. It won the 2008 Presidential Award for General Community Service. It’s a leader in study abroad programs and campus sustainability. And it’s ranked fourth in American universities for producing Peace Corps volunteers.

An alcohol bottle remains after a lawful student assembly (photo credit: Emily Lawler).

In 2009 however, MSU received the somewhat less encouraging recognition of being named a “Red Alert” school on a list issued by FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. According to FIRE’s Web site, schools on the list “have displayed a severe and ongoing disregard for the fundamental rights of their students or faculty members and are the ‘worst of the worst’ when it comes to liberty on campus.”

“I believe MSU does deserve this reputation and has a lot to improve upon in the area of free speech,” said Jordan Zammit, a political science freshman and the founder of MSU Sons of Liberty, a conservative organization he says advocates the freedoms and rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

FIRE’s mission statement says the organization’s purpose is “to defend and sustain individual rights at America’s colleges and universities.” They cite an incident involving ASMSU Associate Director Kara Spencer as the main reason for MSU place on the 2009 Red Alert list.

In September of 2008, Spencer sent out an email to 391 faculty members criticizing the proposed changes to fall semester and Fall Welcome. The international relations senior thought she was just doing her job as a member of student government. The MSU administration saw it differently – it charged her with violating an anti-spamming regulation and Spencer found herself facing possible suspension from the university.

“I wasn’t even using my MSU email. It was my private email and I emailed from home,” Spencer said. “The argument that the university made was that the email that I sent still had to travel through their network to reach faculty and staff, but that’s a pretty thin argument.”

She added that students often get emails from sites such as ANGEL that should theoretically violate the same regulation, which states that MSU has the ability to control bulk email. Bulk email is defined as “the transmission of an identical or substantially identical e-mail message within a 48-hour period from an internal user to more than 10 other internal users who have not elected to receive such e-mail.”

Both FIRE and Spencer considered the restriction on her emailing abilities a violation of freedom of speech. A public university’s prerogative to restrict first amendment rights of students has been debated in the courts over the years. In general, as a public institution, a university cannot make any rule restricting first amendment rights that is more strict than the government itself would be allowed to make.

According to MSU professor of law Kevin Saunders, the author of two books concerning first amendment rights, the government can limit those basic rights to some extent if the law or regulation is “content-neutral”, meaning it applies to all situations regardless of the type or source of the content.

A burned couch sits in the alley off of Collingwood, presumably after a student assembly turned unlawful (photo credit: Emily Lawler.)

“If they have to do with not the content of the speech, but how the speech is delivered [limitations are acceptable],” Saunders said. “The standard example of that is, no loudspeaker trucks in residential neighborhoods after say 10 o’clock at night – that has nothing to do with content, it’s just trying to keep neighborhoods quiet.”

Saunders said MSU’s bulk email regulations would probably be considered content-neutral and therefore valid in court. However, he added that this should only apply to people who send emails either using an MSU email address or a university ISP.

“If you’re home and your ISP is like Comcast and the university tries to discipline you for having sent emails, then that’s a concern,” Saunders said.

Since Spencer said she did email from her home with a private email address, she called the regulation under which disciplinary action was taken against her “absolutely unconstitutional” and added that although it has since been revised to be clearer, it is still flawed.

“I think there’s still a good argument to be made that the current policy is unconstitutional,” she said. “Trying to regulate how people have contact with one another is wrong.”

So is MSU generally respectful of students’ first amendment rights? Or does it deserve a place on the “Red Alert” list? There is no definitive answer to this question. Someone like Kara Spencer may say yes. The preacher who often stands outside of Wells Hall seems to be doing pretty well for himself – he might answer no.  Most students seem to get along just fine without ever noticing any restriction of their rights taking place. Communicative sciences and disorders sophomore Stephanie Dale said she has never seen evidence of MSU violating first amendment rights.

“Walking by Wells and seeing all those protests, I mean, they give them every right to say what they want and how they feel,” Dale said. “People post what they want, and we’ve got spray paint all over the place.”

Jordan Zammit has a different perspective. As the founder and president of Sons of Liberty, he said he ran into obstacles when trying to organize a recent speaking engagement. Controversial British politician Nick Griffin was scheduled to speak at MSU on February 18 about “how the fraud of man-made global warming is used by liberals to attack the sovereignty of nation-states,” according to a press release issued by Zammit. The event was cancelled because of circumstances unrelated to MSU, but Zammit said the university’s administration was not only unhelpful but obstructive during the planning process for the engagement.

“They purposefully tried to prevent my organization from hosting a prominent politician,” Zammit said. “They did this by not answering my phone calls and by not responding to my emails, by denying us free police protection even though protesters have a history of directing violence towards people at events, and by trying to get us to commit to paying for damage done to the room by violent protesters.”

Griffin has visited MSU once before in 2007, as a guest of MSU-YAF or Young Americans for Freedom, a group that was listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center but has not been active on campus recently. He had planned a speech about Islam as a threat to Western civilization, but was interrupted by enthusiastic protestors and forced to conduct a question and answer session instead.

Clearly, Griffin is a controversial figure. So is the MSU administration respecting first amendment rights by having allowed him to speak on campus at all as it did in 2007? Or is it, as Zammit states, ignoring those rights by making it difficult for him to appear here? There are two sides to this story, and neither is perfectly clear.

Criminal justice junior Kevin Fleury said he can understand both perspectives. He was a member of ASMSU when the Kara Spencer case took place and was a wary observer of MSU-YAF when it was still an active group on campus. Fleury said the charges against Spencer were a violation of her freedom of speech, but there he has seen other cases of MSU being extremely tolerant.

“Cedarfest specifically, when students are rioting and making fools of themselves and doing stupid things, I think that the police, which includes the university police…wait for as long as they can until intervening,” Fleury said. “And Young Americans for Freedom, which was essentially a hate group that was allowed to exist on campus, caused a lot of controversy, but I think the university didn’t want to censor the minority in that case.”

He added however, that he has seen members of faculty be unreceptive to the voices of students with legitimate concerns.

“I think that there are some administrators,” Fleury said, “that wake up and honestly think that they would have the best job in world if it weren’t for those darn students.”

As Fleury illustrates, both sides of the argument can be supported. For now, the university awaits its FIRE allegations to die out and Spencer’s continuing concerns to be addressed. Hopefully, the next time MSU earns a spot on a nationally recognized list, it will be as the best of the best rather than the worst of the worst.

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Students Against Drunk Driving

Students Against Drunk Driving

When Joshua Clark’s parents arrived at Sparrow Hospital, the first person they talked to was a pastor. It wasn’t a reassuring sign – their son had been hit by a drunken driver so hard that although he was driving, police found him on the passenger-side floor.

“I was in a coma for the next month,” Clark, 29, said. “Each day was different. Many good days, but more bad days, to where doctors told my parents, ‘You’d better get the rest of your family here because he’s not gonna be making it that much longer.’”

Photo credit: Brett Ekblad

Clark, who graduated from MSU in 2007, spoke Dec. 6 at the fourth annual Survivor’s Forum, an event sponsored by Spartans Against Drunk Driving.

Marissa Cann, the president of Spartans Against Drunk Driving said this is an issue that is particularly important on college campuses.

“I think a lot of college students are in the mindset where they think ‘I’m invincible, nothing can hurt me, oh I’ll be fine,’ that sort of mindset,” Cann said. “And it’s sad, because when you have that mindset people are gonna get behind the wheel when they shouldn’t be and we all know what kinds of things can happen from that.”

Spartans Against Drunk Driving Treasurer Kelly Kaye agreed. She said there are always excerptions to the rule, but in her experience most college students don’t take drunken driving seriously.

“I gave a speech in my communications class about how statistics show that lowering the drinking age to 18 increases the rate of drunk driving, and everyone was booing me,” Kaye said. “That’s not taking it seriously.”

East Lansing Mayor Vic Loomis, who was the keynote speaker at the forum, said the city of East Lansing, at least, is giving the issue of drunken driving the respect it deserves.

“I can’t think of anything that disturbs me more in this city,” Loomis said. “I firmly believe and have committed a large amount of my time as your mayor in working in the area of public safety.”

Loomis added that the number of drunken driving arrests is currently at a 19-year high, something that could be both positive and negative. It may mean there are more drunken drivers on the road or it may mean that police are doing a better job of catching drunken drivers, or it could be a combination of both factors.

Whatever the case may be, East Lansing Police Officer Steve Gonzalez said that he has personally seen a large reduction in the number of drunken driving arrests he has to make.

“Back when I started, 12 years ago, 2:00 in the morning, you could make a traffic stop for anything, anywhere in this city or on campus and you could be guaranteed it was a drunk driver,” Gonzalez said. “I mean, it was a dime a dozen. If you had the next few days off and you didn’t want to get tied up on a drunk driving arrest, you didn’t make a traffic stop because you knew it was going to be a drunk. Nowadays, I can make 12 stops in one night and not find a drunk driver.”

Photo credit: Brett Ekblad

Gonzalez, along with Mayor Loomis, attributed this development to the fact that it is no longer socially acceptable to drive while intoxicated, as it was in the past. The addition of efforts from groups like Spartans Against Drunk Driving make a difference too.

Still, the police officers present at the forum stressed that they continue to see drunken drivers every day. Furthermore, many of the arrests they make aren’t drivers who are simply tipsy; they’re drivers who have been drinking to excess.

“Last night, I asked [a drunken driver], ‘Can you recite the English alphabet from the letter A through the letter T?’” MSU Police Officer Mike Cantrell said. “He goes, ‘A, E,G’ and looks at me…The legal limit for alcohol to be in your system is 0.08. He was a 0.26.”

Officers also repeatedly said drunken driving accidents can happen to anybody. East Lansing Police Officer Steve Whelan talked of his nephew, who celebrated New Year’s Eve, went to bed at 4 a.m. and got up five hours later at 9 a.m., ate breakfast, showered then drove home.

“The problem is, driving back home, he left the highway onto the exit ramp and rear-ended the car in front of him,” Whelan said. “All of a sudden the police officer shows up at the accident and he is a 0.15. He said he felt 100 percent sober.”

LCC student Hannah Marks attended the forum and agreed that even good people can make bad decisions. Marks, 20, has a friend whose older brother, a father to a newborn baby, died in an alcohol-related accident.

“He was driving alone home, driving drunk and wrapped his car around a tree and died,” Marks said. “And he was really close with his family, sweetest guy in the world, and it just tore the whole town apart.”

The effect drunken driving has on families and community members was also emphasized at the forum.“It’s not just the person who is driving the vehicle or the person that they hit, but it’s all the rest of us,” Loomis said. “It’s the family members who suffer.”

Loomis went on to praise the work of Spartans Against Drunk Driving for their activism in the community.
“If your work as Spartans Against Drunk Driving saves one life, just one life, your time has been well spent,” Loomis said. “It’s been very well spent.”

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Campus Saftey: Your Responsibility?

Campus Saftey: Your Responsibility?

Sarah Lim’s bike had a name: Ross. Ross was a vintage brown, cruiser-style bike that Lim inherited from her dad, and had faithfully transported her around campus since her freshman year. Then one night this September, Lim went to get her bike for a trip to Bubble Island, and discovered it was missing.

“I walked back and forth across the building like three times, because I thought I must have forgotten where I left it,” the 19-year old said. “Finally I had to admit that it must have been stolen. Poor Ross. I miss him.” Students who don’t take sufficient safety precautions, such as locking doors or using U-locks to protect bikes, may be partially to blame for incidents of crime on campus according to MSU police.

Lim, a supply chain management sophomore who used a cable lock for her bike, had not registered it with the MSU police. MSU police Sgt. Florene McGlothian-Taylor said she doesn’t feel sorry for Lim, and though the MSU police are trying to get students to take more responsibility in their actions, the results haven’t been positive.

“Nothing is working,” McGlothian-Taylor said. “And I’m becoming a bit frustrated because I don’t know what else to do.” McGlothian-Taylor said accounts of all incidents reported to the MSU police are published in the State News and police are contacting staff in the dorms and other buildings encouraging them to reinforce safety measures. But often, students don’t heed these warnings. McGlothian-Taylor said that bike thefts have increased to about 280 so far this school year, and there has also been a rash of laptop thefts on campus recently.

Many students, such as economics sophomore Dan Zaharia, 19, recognize that their actions aren’t always exactly smart. “I know for sure that I don’t keep track of my stuff as well as I should,” Zaharia said. “Like the other night, in the library, I went to go look for books and I left my computer right on the desk, all of my books there.”

McGlothian-Taylor said this is just the kind of behavior that is resulting in thefts such as that of a $2,400 Dell laptop from a graduate student in Erickson Hall and a $1,799 MacBook Air from a professor in the Food Safety and Toxicology Building this year.

Although most students acknowledge that they have a part to play in keeping themselves safe, many wish security on campus were better. “Security here is really bad,” said Tori Johnson, a finance sophomore. “It’s easy for someone to get hurt or for something to happen.”

Johnson, 19, lived in Case Hall last year, during the incidents where an unidentified man was soliciting donations from residents of several dorms. On Jan. 21, 2009, an 18-year-old student was sexually assaulted by this man in East Holden Hall, according to a State News police brief. Johnson said one of her friends was also approached by him. “She went to give him money but she made the mistake of keeping the door wide open, and turning her back on him,” Johnson said. “And that potentially could have gone wrong, like she could have been attacked. Luckily, she got him out of her room and nothing happened.”

Other students also express concern about their safety on campus. Supply chain management freshman Julie Molnar, 19, said she “definitely doesn’t feel 100 percent safe on campus.” Molnar lives in Abbot Hall and said she thinks a lot of students are oblivious to any threats of danger. “I think we’re all really naïve,” Molnar said. “If something happened, we wouldn’t know what to do.”

Ed Tillett, the resident director for Emmons Hall, agreed that many students don’t have an accurate perspective of the danger of living on such a large campus. “All too often a lot of students see this as this insulated bubble, but Michigan State really is kind of like a big city,” Tillett said. “We have our own water system, police department, fire and safety, etcetera and the same things that they would do at home they need to bring with them and do here,” he said.

McGlothian-Taylor also compared MSU to a city, adding that unlocked doors are one of the major issues causing crime on campus. “Your room within a residence hall is … where you live, you should view that like your home,” she said. “If you lived in the city, you wouldn’t leave your door unlocked, you would lock it. You should lock your room door.”

Rachel Silva, an OCAT aide in Hubbard Hall, said unlocked doors can be an open invitation to thieves, and in halls with suite-style bathrooms, this leaves you as well as your suitemates vulnerable. Silva, a 19-year-old packaging sophomore, said two of her resident’s rooms were robbed because one was unlocked. The thief robbed the first room, then went through the bathroom and stole from the adjoining room as well. “I think most students have a level head,” Silva said. “But I even have moments like, yes, you can call me an idiot, but it just slipped my mind, you know, I forgot to lock my doors.”

Members of MSU staff and police are urging students to try to remember common sense safety precautions, but are also adding security measures of their own. Green emergency boxes were installed in Mary Mayo hall when it was renovated over the past year. “No matter where you stand in Mary Mayo you’ll be able to see a green light phone to use,” said Ryan McKinney, a  facilities manager for the Brody and West Circle neighborhoods. “If there’s ever an incident you can go and hit the green light phone because there’s one within your line of sight.”

In addition, several halls including Holden, Snyder-Phillips and Emmons have adopted a system where residents must swipe their IDs to get into the living wings of the halls.

McGlothian-Taylor said measures such as these help, but ultimately, the responsibility rests on students to do the right thing: lock their doors, don’t leave belongings unattended and most importantly, alert the police if they see something unusual or suspicious going on. “If you see somebody suspicious or see anything suspicious, call 911 immediately, because we can check the person out,” McGlothian-Taylor said. “They may have a warrant out for their arrest, they could be a burglar. We don’t know. Because nobody calls us.”

Unfortunately, nobody called the police to report anything suspicious the night Sarah Lim’s bike got stolen. She says she think she’ll probably get a different bike next year, but definitely not a new one.

“It won’t be the same though,” Lim said. “It won’t be Ross.”

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